Dodgers Gold Glove center fielder Cody Bellinger awoke with a stiff lower back on Saturday, necessitating his switch from the outfield to designated hitter for Game 4 of the World Series, manager Dave Roberts said.
Bellinger switched roles with AJ Pollock, who originally was in the lineup at designated hitter and instead moved to center field. Their batting order did not change.
Roberts said Bellinger, the reigning National League MVP, improved with treatment and was able to throw and catch in a light workout, but the club decided to err on the side of caution. He said Bellinger was considered “day to day,” but Roberts added that he expected Bellinger back in center field for Game 5 on Sunday.
"If the floor is he can DH, that's good,” said Roberts. “If tomorrow it loosens up, then he'll be back in center field."
The Dodgers suspect playing on artificial turf, as well as cooler recent temperatures, could be factors.
Bellinger also dislocated his right shoulder celebrating a home run in the National League Championship Series, but Roberts said that is no longer an issue. Bellinger entered Saturday 2-for-11 with a home run in the World Series.
Kershaw aims for postseason record
Does Clayton Kershaw have at least five more strikeouts in him when he starts Game 5 of the World Series for the Dodgers on Sunday? If he does, he’ll be baseball’s all-time postseason strikeout king.
By striking out eight batters in a Game 1 win over the Rays, Kershaw pushed past Hall of Famer John Smoltz for second all-time with 201 strikeouts. The only man with more is the Astros’ Justin Verlander, with 205.
Does an individual record mean anything in October?
“Just win," Kershaw said. “In the postseason, it’s just about winning.”
Kershaw, whose postseason performance has been dissected as thoroughly as any player in baseball history, is having one of his most productive Octobers so far, with a 3-1 record to go with a 2.88 ERA through his first four starts. He has 31 strikeouts through his first 25 innings this postseason.
Sunday, however, will bring a notable new wrinkle. Each of Kershaw’s first four starts were against a different team: the Brewers, Padres, Braves and Rays. This is the first time a team will see him twice.
“You might have to change some things that you haven’t liked, or change approaches to different things,” Kershaw said. “Any time a hitter sees you, they get a little more of an advantage. They’ve seen me for a few at-bats now and I might have to change a few things up, but for the most part, just continue to pitch the way that you pitch.”
Muncy still dealing with effects of HBP
Max Muncy said he’s still in the process of mentally overcoming injuries suffered when hit by pitches. Muncy sustained a broken wrist when hit by a Matt Strahm pitch last season and a broken finger when hit by an Alex Wood pitch in a simulated game early during Summer Camp.
Although he’s remained the cleanup hitter, during the regular season his slashline fell from .251/.374/.515 last year to .192/.331/.389 this year. But in the postseason he’s .245/.448/.449, which includes a franchise-record 18 walks and a two-run single in Game 3 of the World Series.
Muncy said the lingering effect of those injuries is more in his head than wrist or finger.
“I might still be dealing with some of that,” he said. “The biggest thing for me on that was mentally. Between last year breaking my wrist and this year breaking a finger, anything that was coming to the inner half of the plate I was freezing on, jumping out of the way.
“So to me, and I’m still kind of that way a little bit, I used to do a lot of damage on inner-half pitches and I don’t know I’ve necessarily done that much this year. I’ve fouled a lot of them off and I think that isn’t necessarily a bad habit with the swing, it’s just mentally not being ready to attack because in the back of your mind it’s still -- here’s what happened last year, here’s what happened this year. It’s difficult to get over that sometimes.”
Both pitchers that hit Muncy are left-handed, but this year Muncy has had more trouble against right-handed pitching, with an OPS of more than 100 points lower than against left-handers.
“All throughout September, I knew he was close," Roberts said. “The numbers weren’t showing it, but as far as at-bat quality and continuing to get better, for me that’s an easy bet. ... I just think every single time in the batter’s box, I feel good, and to have him at the ‘four,’ it just makes everyone around him better.”